Ten years ago to the day, as I sat at my desk, I mused about words written by a young woman I knew only superficially from occasionally reading her blog. She occasionally read my blog, as well. If memory serves, I think the occasional exchange of messages about our respective philosophies lasted only a few months. Either she stopped blogging or I stopped reading what she wrote. But I have not forgotten how meaningful I found a few of the words she included in a blog post a few months earlier. I was struck by how they seemed to have been extracted from my brain:
We cling to things because we’re terrified of empty space. We surrounded ourselves with possessions because we feel like we need them to help us express who we are. We hold on to people because we’re afraid of being alone. We carry around our sadness because we would rather feel something than nothing. We try to fill our emptiness with whatever we can.
As I contemplate those words and how personal they seemed, I try to reconstruct the emotions that made the words seem so descriptive of how I felt. And what I felt at the time, I think, was self-pity. Why I felt it is beyond my ability to recall; but I think that is what I felt. Or maybe that’s not quite it; maybe not self-pity, but something akin to it. I had turned 59 years old a few months before. Reaching that age was no more impactful than any of the milestones before it. But I could sense the next birthday would have a jarring effect on me. I anticipated I would feel I had accomplished nothing of consequence in all the years leading up to the commencement of my sixth decade.
Ten years later—ten years shy of approaching my seventh decade—similar thoughts rattle around in my head. But looking at the years since that time, I now understand the life I had then was more full and more satisfying than I realized. I should have known.
When a person expresses his sadness or depression or ennui or…whatever…it does no good for friends to give him all the reasons his emotions are invalid. He does not need to be told all the reasons he should, instead, feel happy and appreciative of all the wonderful things for which he should feel grateful. Instead, he needs his emotions acknowledged, his good fortune notwithstanding. Hah! I proclaim what he needs, as if I am an experienced and knowledgeable therapist. Why do we try to eliminate or invalidate emotional pain? I suspect it is because we do not want people we care about to feel that pain. But dismissing the legitimacy of negative emotions may do more harm than good. I suspect, too, that people rarely reveal all the sources of their negative emotions, in part because they feel embarrassed…they feel responsible for their own pain and they expect they would be judged for it if they exposed their own role in causing it. These are topics worthy of conversation, of course, but getting beyond the guilt probably is extraordinarily hard. That, I imagine, is why years of education and training are required before a person becomes a recognized, qualified, certified, legitimate therapist. At least that’s my guess.
My mind and my fingers are tired. I will try to give both some rest before I launch into another Sunday.